Kevin McCarthy's Dilemma Over September's Spending Fight

Kevin McCarthy's Dilemma Over September's Spending Fight

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

When House lawmakers return on Tuesday after a 47-day August recess that extended well past August, they will have to scramble to deal with funding the government past the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. It will not be easy.

They’ll also consider emergency funding for Ukraine, disaster relief and border security, areas where there are significant differences between Republicans and Democrats — and between Republicans and Republicans.

Roll Call’s John T. Bennett offers this preview: “Several rounds of negotiations on federal spending levels, border security and additional aid to Ukraine will dominate the balance of September, senators from both parties said last week. Both chambers also must hammer out a compromise version of the fiscal 2024 defense authorization bill, then send a final version to Biden’s desk — but House conservatives are vowing a fight over a bill once considered must-pass.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reportedly will be looking to pass a short-term spending bill that would keep the government open and give House Republicans time to pass some of the annual appropriations bills that have this far been delayed by intraparty clashes.

McCarthy is reportedly angling for leverage ahead of a battle with the Senate over 2024 spending levels, with far-right members of his conference insisting on deeper cuts than the Senate will approve. “Smart House GOP lawmakers understand that they have zero leverage over a Senate that’s passing appropriations bills with big bipartisan margins,” Punchbowl News reported Monday. “The House will have less than zero leverage if Republicans can’t move any spending bills after years of crying for regular order.”

It’s not clear, though, whether his most right-wing members will give McCarthy any leeway — or whether McCarthy might rely on Democrats to help pass a stopgap spending bill and thus open himself up to a challenge from House Freedom Caucus members who are itching for a fight.

The bottom line: McCarthy faces lots of important decisions that will determine how September’s funding fight will play out. One senior House Republican reportedly told Punchbowl that there’s a 75% chance of a shutdown. Stay tuned.